What are the pros and cons of hydropower and what is hydropower? Hydropower is renewable energy source whereby electricity is generated from flowing water—usually water stored in a reservoir or a dam at high altitude and released to an electricity generating plant downstream. The water flows to the plant via water tunnels and passes through a turbine, at which point kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy.
Is hydropower reliable? Since we are continually being warned about the ever diminishing stocks of fossil fuels and the dangers of nuclear power, one might assume that hydroelectric power is a safe and convenient way of generating electricity, but like most things in life, there are pros and cons of hydropower.
What are the pros of hydropower?
- Hydropower is one of the most popular and widely used forms of renewable energy; it is also one of the most reliable and consistent and can be used to generate electricity for all types of industry, both sm
all and large.
- Hydropower is completely harmless to the environment and no toxic waste products are emitted as part of the electricity generation process.
- The operation costs of a hydroelectric power plant are very low and the water can be recycled and re-used in a multitude of different ways: irrigation, agriculture, and domestic water supplies.
- The power production at a hydroelectric plant is almost instantaneous due to the simplicity of the process: once the turbine is switched on, electricity is generated.
- Reservoirs can be used for other purposes as well as a source of water for the hydroelectric plant: in many cases reservoirs serve as a tourist attraction for water based recreational activities.
What are the cons of hydropower?
- For a hydroelectric power plant to be successful, it needs to be connected to a large enough reservoir of water, and in most cases natural reservoirs of sufficient size are few and far between, which means an artificial reservoir must be constructed—and this is a major engineering feat that can take a great deal of expertise and money to build.
- Construction of a reservoir to provide a water source for a hydroelectric power plant usually involves building a dam across a river, which inevitably involves the relocation of communities living in the area to be flooded.
- Environmental factors can play a large part in the success of hydroelectric plants. In times of drought, the water levels in a reservoir will drop considerably and there might not be enough water to generate electricity in the area.
- No matter how well a dam is constructed, there is always a risk factor that the dam might be breached by some force of nature. If this were to happen, the consequences of such a flood could be potentially catastrophic and might cause a tremendous loss of life.
- Due to the way power is generated by hydroelectric power, there needs to be enough altitude between the water reservoir and the electricity generating turbines, therefore suitable locations are often difficult to find.